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Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - "The Next Ten Years in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Attacking the Problem with the Right Tools"

Hearing

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Location: Washington, DC

This morning, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) delivered the following statement at a hearing entitled, "The Next Ten Years in the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Attacking the Problem with the Right Tools." The hearing explored the major factors that enable the ongoing proliferation of trafficking, and probed solutions for some of the most difficult problems associated with trafficking. It also allowed the Committee to establish the existing facts, determine where the greatest problems lie, discuss available tools to address the major challenges, and work toward a roadmap for the next ten years.

"In the end, none of us can escape our moral obligation to be a leader in the fight against this modern-day slavery," said Sen. Kerry. "History teaches us that we are safest and stronger when the world hears from America and when America takes the lead and we share their destiny of all people on this planet. That has always inspired people, and it always will--for the triumph of injustice is man-made, and so, too, can injustice be undone at the hands of good men and women who take action."

The full text of Chairman Kerry's hearing statement, as delivered, is below:

Thank you all for coming. We meet this morning to discuss one of the great moral challenges of our time: the fight against human trafficking -- really that's almost a light word for what it is, it's really slavery, modern-day slavery.

We have barely broken the seal on the 21st century, but already it has been marked by an all-too-familiar nightmare: the enslavement of men, women and children for the purposes of forced labor, sexual exploitation, and other egregious violations of human rights.

Trafficking in persons is really a blight on world communities. It can be found on Thai fishing boats, where Cambodian men are lured under false pretenses and subjected to forced labor at sea. It ensnares young Nepalese women, who are coerced into a sex industry that ships them off to destinations in the Persian Gulf. And it steals away the lives of Haitian children, who are taken from their families, deprived of education and forced to labor in a home that is not their own.

It is remarkable that there are an estimated 27 million people enslaved in the world today, and up to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year. With annual profits as high as $32 billion, this criminal enterprise -- and that's what it is, a criminal enterprise -- has inhumanely commercialized large swathes of humanity -- where everything, even the lives of young boys and girls, are up for sale.

This is not a new issue, and it's not one Americans come to without bearing our share of responsibility. According to the 2012 Trafficking in Persons report, "The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children--both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals--subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude, and sex trafficking." That's an amazing statement--and I hope it would inspire outrage in everybody.

Edmund Burke once said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Well, we can't stand by and do nothing as housekeepers brought to the United States find themselves imprisoned in their homes. We cannot stand by as migrant agricultural laborers are enslaved by their American employers and subjected to unfair wages and labor practices while they toil to pay off large recruiting debts.

Slavery, whether in the United States or abroad, must be recognized, rejected and eliminated. We must identify the problem in all its forms, confront the challenges that undermine our best efforts, and pinpoint the tools that are most effective at overcoming them. And that's what we are here to discuss today.

The fight against trafficking in persons has always inspired strong bipartisan support in Congress. In 2000, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the historic Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which established a coordinated U.S. Government framework based on the so-called "three Ps": prevention, protection, and prosecution. To these three P's, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added a crucial fourth: partnerships with local governments and organizations.

A comprehensive U.S. response to the global scourge of human trafficking was long overdue, and we know that much work remains to be done.

We can start by focusing our development efforts on the underlying causes of human trafficking, including the economic factors that render men, women and children vulnerable to exploitation.

We must also engage in a multifaceted approach and work in coordination with law enforcement agencies, victim services and community organizations. We must focus on prevention strategies that target transparency in business supply chains, eliminating the market for slave-made goods. And, of course, we must assist other governments in their efforts to build sustainable public justice systems so that perpetrators of human trafficking are held accountable.

It is a pleasure to be here today. There are a number of colleagues who will join us, Senators Boxer and Cardin, have been very involved in this issue and have shown leadership on it along the way. Last year, along with Senator Leahy and others, we introduced the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011. I intend to continue to work closely with my colleagues to ensure that put together a strong and effective anti-trafficking program that can tackle this obviously horrific and--unfortunately--widespread challenge.

In the end, none of us can escape our moral obligation to be a leader in the fight against this modern-day slavery. History teaches us that we are safest and stronger when the world hears from America and when America takes the lead and we share their destiny of all people on this planet. That has always inspired people, and it always will--for the triumph of injustice is man-made, and so, too, can injustice be undone at the hands of good men and women who take action.

To help us do that today, we are fortunate to have three people who understand their obligation:

Jada Pinkett Smith is a passionate and articulate advocate for combating human slavery. Inspired by her daughter, Willow, who is here with us today, she conceived the campaign, "Don't Sell Bodies," and today she is applying her talents to raise awareness of this issue around the world.

David Abramowitz is Vice President for Policy and Government Relations at Humanity United. Previously, David served as Chief Counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he helped author the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

And, finally, we have Holly Burkhalter, Vice President for Government Relations at the International Justice Mission. Holly is one of our leading advocates against human slavery. Together with her colleagues at IJM, she has pioneered innovative partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and worked tirelessly to promote sustainable public justice systems across the globe.

We welcome all of you and look forward to hearing your insights about how we can take on this complex and pressing challenge.


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